The Life of John Ruskin eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 364 pages of information about The Life of John Ruskin.
mercantile-looking men indeed, counting money also, like the living ones, only a little more living, painted by Tintoret; not to speak of the scattered Palma Vecchios, and a lovely Benedetto Diana which no one ever looks at.  I wonder when the European mind will again awake to the great fact that a noble picture was not painted to be hung, but to be seen?  I only saw these by accident, having been detained in Venice by soma obliging person who abstracted some [of his wife’s jewels] and brought me thereby into various relations with the respectable body of people who live at the wrong end of the Bridge of Sighs—­the police, whom, in spite of traditions of terror, I would very willingly have changed for some of those their predecessors whom you have honoured by a note in the ‘Italy.’  The present police appear to act on exactly contrary principles; yours found the purse and banished the loser; these don’t find the jewels, and won’t let me go away.  I am afraid no punishment is appointed in Venetian law for people who steal time.”

Mr. Ruskin returned to England in July, 1852, and settled next door to his old home on Herne Hill.  He said he could not live any more in Park Street, with a dead brick wall opposite his windows.  And so, under the roof where he wrote the first volume of “Modern Painters,” he finished “Stones of Venice.”  These latter volumes give an account of St. Mark’s and the Ducal Palace and other ancient buildings; a complete catalogue of Tintoret’s pictures—­the list he had begun in 1845; and a history of the successive styles of architecture, Byzantine, Gothic, and Renaissance, interweaving illustrations of the human life and character that made the art what it was.

The kernel of the work was the chapter on the Nature of Gothic; in which he showed, more distinctly than in the “Seven Lamps,” and connected with a wider range of thought, suggested by Pre-Raphaelitism, the doctrine that art cannot be produced except by artists; that architecture, in so far as it is an art, does not mean mechanical execution, by unintelligent workmen, from the vapid working-drawings of an architect’s office; and, just as Socrates postponed the day of justice until philosophers should be kings and kings philosophers, so Ruskin postponed the reign of art until workmen should be artists, and artists workmen.



By the end of June, 1853, “Stones of Venice” was finished, as well as a description of Giotto’s works at Padua, written for the Arundel Society.  The social duties of the season were over; Ruskin and his wife went north to spend a well-earned holiday.  At Wallington in Northumberland, staying with Sir Walter and Lady Trevelyan, he met Dr. John Brown at Edinburgh, author of “Pet Marjorie” and other well-known works, who became his lifelong friend.  Ruskin invited Millais, by this time an intimate and

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The Life of John Ruskin from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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